Democratization of local government in Brazil : decentralisation and people's councils

  • I.B. Ckagnazaroff

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research studies two cases of implementation of alternative strategies for municipal government reform in Brazil, decentralisation and People's Councils. The aim is to answer the following general question: `Can decentralisation and People's Councils be a means for democratization of municipal government in Brazil?'. The hypothesis is that initiatives to reform Brazilian municipal governments face problems that are characteristic of the Brazilian political and administrative reality. These problems are considered obstacles for the development of those initiatives and accordingly, for democratization of municipal government in Brazil. After an introduction and outline in Chapter One, Chapter Two discusses four main theories concerning local government. Chapter Three discusses decentralisation and People's Councils are discussed in Chapter Four. Chapter Five presents a historical, political and economic overview of Brazil. Chapter Six deals with Brazilian Federalism and Municipal Government. The main aspects of the Municipal Government are presented as well as the development of municipal autonomy through the various Federal Constitutions and cases of People's Councils and decentralisation in municipalities in Brazil. Chapter Seven presents the political parties responsible for the initiatives, the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democratic Party) in the case of decentralisation, and the PT (Workers' Party) in the case of People's Councils. In Chapter Eight the research strategy and the data collection techniques are described. Chapters Nine and Ten present decentralisation implemented by the PSDB in Belo Horizonte, the Minas Gerais state capital and People's Councils introduced by the PT in the town of Ipatinga in the same state. Conclusions are presented in Chapter Eleven and include a comparison and discussion of the two cases. The thesis shows that these experiments with alternative strategies of local government face problems that are generally current in Brazilian political and administrative reality. Those problems are concerned with unwillingness to decentralise power, clientelism, low levels of participation of civil society and the `political' use of the structures implemented.
Date of Award1993
Original languageEnglish


  • Democratization
  • local government
  • Brazil
  • decentralisation
  • people's councils

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